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>PD Feb. 1, 1995, V3, #22

Algeria Proposes Cooperation with Israel

Algeria has proposed to Israel that the two countries work together to combat fundamentalist Islamic movements. The proposal was reportedly submitted to Israel's Ambassador to Austria by his Algerian counterpart. Officials in Jerusalem have not disclosed any details of the Algerian offer.

Peres Meets Mubarak This Morning

By Laurie Kassman (Cairo)

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak meets with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres this morning to look at ways to break the deadlock in Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. The two men also are expected to discuss the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and Egypt's insistence that Israel sign the document.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa says the peace process is going through a dangerous and delicate time. He says Mubarak will press the Israeli minister to reopen the crossings with Gaza and the West Bank to let tens of thousands of Palestinians back to their jobs inside Israel.

PLO-Israeli negotiations on expanding self rule have been stalled since a suicide bombing attack in January that killed 21 Israelis. Israel has pushed PLO leader Yasir Arafat to crack down on militants who are trying to sabotage the peace process.

Mubarak also is expected to discuss Egypt's firm position on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which comes up for renewal in April. Egypt says it will not sign on again unless Israel does too. Israel has never signed the treaty and still refuses to do so.

Ramadan Starts in Islamic World

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

The approximately 3-million Muslims in israel and the occupied and autonomous Palestinian territories are among hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide who have begun celebrating the holy month of Ramadan.

There was a time when on the first day of Ramadan the Al-Aksa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City -- Islam's third holiest shrine -- was crowded with worshipers and people studying the Muslim holy book, the Koran. But on Tuesday, the crowds were small.

Residents of the nearby occupied West Bank are barred from the city by an Israeli closure order, designed to enhance security after the bombing near Tel Aviv 11 days ago which killed 21 Israelis.

Local residents say this Ramadan is in marked contrast to last year, when restrictions on worshipers from outside the city were eased because of the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. That was the first time there was relatively free access to Jerusalem for Ramadan since the start of the Palestinian uprising, the intifada, seven years earlier.

Still, one of the senior Muslim religious leaders of the region says there are some signs of progress. Mufti Ikermah Sabri said that this year, for the first time, Islamic clergymen at Al-Aksa made their own sighting of the crescent moon Monday night, marking the start of the holy month. The mufti says that is a sign of Palestinian independence, in a religious sense. In the past, Palestinian Muslims relied on official announcements from Jordan, Egypt or Saudi Arabia.

But the mufti, who was appointed last year by the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, also has several complaints about the current situation. He says this Israeli closure is very effective, and it is preventing many of Muslim faithful from reaching Jerusalem to pray. Until now, most of the complaints about the closure had been related to its economic impact.

Israel says it will not end the closure until the Palestinian Autonomy Authority takes steps to fight radical organizations which operate freely in autonomous areas.

The closure and the onset of Ramadan resulted in a call by the Fatah organization in the West Bank for Palestinians to try to reach Jerusalem, and to hold prayers at Israeli army checkpoints if they are stopped. Fatah is Arafat's own group within the PLO.

Israel Opens Cave of Patriarchs for Muslim Observance

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

The Israeli army has announced special arrangements at the controversial Cave of the Patriarchs in the West Bank town, Hebron, for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which started Tuesday.

The army closed the area to Jews on Tuesday, for the start of Ramadan and said 1,200 Muslims would be allowed to pray in the mosque above the cave. Other rooms of the building over the cave are designated as a synagogue, and on most days members of the two religions both pray in separate parts of the building, using different entrances.

The mosque and synagogue were closed for eight months, following last February's massacre of 29 Muslim worshipers by a radical Jewish settler. It re-opened in November with a wall between the Jewish and Muslim prayer areas and tight security. Neither group was satisfied with the arrangement, but it has resulted in generally-peaceful use of the site.
The new rules provide for 10 days a year for each group to have exclusive use of the building. An army spokesman says the first day of Ramadan is one of the exclusive Muslim days and there will be four more during the month. The spokesman says there are no special security arrangements for Ramadan at the cave site, but officials are believed to be watching carefully for any sign of a repeat of last year's massacre, or a retaliation.

Japan Article Denies Holocaust

While the world marks the 50thn anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Japan's leading conservative publishing house has printed an article denying that Jews were gassed at the Nazi death camp.

The 10-page article, including an editor's note lauding its findings, has drawn fire from the Israeli Embassy and a leading American Jewish group and intensified concerns over Japanese anti-Semitism, a persistent theme in Japanese intellectual life that has taken on a new virulence in recent years.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles has written Japan's ambassador in the United States and asked the government to publicly condemn the magazine article. Titled "There Were No Nazi Gas Chambers," it appeared in February's edition of Marco Polo, a slick monthly with 250,000 mostly young adult readers that is published by the prestigious Bungei Shunju Co.

Bungei Shunju's weekly and monthly magazines are considered a bellwether of public opinion in Japan. Leading figures such as Akio Morita, Shintaro Ishihara and officials from Keidanren, the country's top big business group, have used Bungei Shunju's stable of prestigious publications to get their latest thinking before the public.

In the Marco Polo article, freelance author Masanori Nishioka claims there was no Holocaust and that the gas chambers at Auschwitz were set up by the Polish communist government after the war.

Nishioka, a doctor, did not travel to Europe or conduct any interviews for the article. His assertions contain references to the growing "Holocaust denial" literature in Europe and the United States.

For the survivors of the Holocaust, the Marco Polo article is akin to a public denial of the dropping of the A-bomb on Hiroshima and the death and suffering which it wrought on the Japanese people,'' wrote Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, in his letter Jan. 19 to Ambassador Takakazu Kuriyama.

Last April, Japan's largest business daily, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, ran a large advertisement for a series of books alleging Jews were responsible for the Japanese stock market crash.

"Shoot Japan: The Last Strong Enemy'' alleged that a cabal of Jewish bankers was out to destroy the last threat to their worldwide hegemony: Japan. Two months ago, the Yomiuri Shimbun, the largest newspaper in Japan, ran advertisements for a similar series of books.

Throughout 1992, as Japan's recession worsened, mainstream weekly and monthly magazines were filled with articles claiming Jews were behind Japan's economic woes.

After Bill Clinton was elected president, the weekly Shukan Gendai suggested that Jewish capital was behind his sudden rise to power.

Fearing a tough approach on trade, the magazine asserted that Jews were behind the push for Japan's internationalization, saying they would benefit most.

Anti-Semitic tracts have long been a staple of Japan's book publishing industry. Masami Uno, perhaps the most prolific author in the genre, has sold millions of copies of his books.

"If You Understand Jews, You Can See the Whole World," first published in 1986, has sold more than 600,000 copies alone.

Arie Dan, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy, said his protests fell on deaf ears at Marco Polo's editorial offices, where he met with deputy editor Seigo Kimata.

"The man did not react. He did not apologize, which they usually do. Nor would he even consider our request to be more cautious in the future," he said.

Dan said the embassy plans to raise the issue through diplomatic channels. He called the article the worst anti-Semitic incident in Japan in at least two years.

When contacted, Kimata refused to comment.

Editor Kazuyoshi Hanada, the top editor at Bungei Shunju who took over the reins of Marco Polo last April, was unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Wiesenthal Center said that its pressure campaign on advertisers in Marco Polo was having results. At least one major corporation had suspended all advertising in the magazine, he said.

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